Fantastic, seeing Kathleen Hanna and Kathi Wilcox together again on a stage. Admittedly, some of us got nostalgic for Bikini Kill at Austin’s long-gone Cavity Club while watching the bandmates’ new group, the Julie Ruin, on Sunday. Both those entities were a long time ago.
As opposed to Bikini Kill’s full bore, hammer-and-tongs punk rock, the Julie Ruin arrives very New Wave. More specifically, they’ve distilled the best elements of the B-52's and made ’em rock much harder.
Hanna remains an engaging, endearing presence onstage. Her singing sounds rounder and fuller than on the Julie Ruin’s debut full-length, Run Fast. And this band sports some potential hits, including “Oh Come On” and “Ha Ha Ha,” filled with crunchy guitar, Eighties-rific synths, and tons of drive.
Yet if the Julie Ruin has an Achilles heel, it’s keyboardist Kenny Mellman. His playing’s a fine, essential element, but his “background vocals” are jarring at best, as if he’s intentionally trying to sound like a guy who can’t sing. And at least at this show, his vocals were way too high in the mix. Louder, even, than Kathleen Hanna’s.
Loud sour notes aside, the Julie Ruin are good enough to search out their CD. That would also mean avoiding the most boring audience all weekend. I wanted to set a few shirts on fire just to make it more fun. The Julie Ruin must have wondered who emptied the city morgue, for all the action there.
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